Saturday, 25 August 2012

Apple - the McDonalds of Technology

I've always enjoyed tinkering with computers and used a Mac for a brief period when I was at University in 1991. I found it stangely unsatisfying. Superficiality isn't quite the right word. Neither is polish, nor simpleness, nor inflexibility, nor stubbornness, nor dumbness; but they're all kind of close.

With iOS Apple have hit the jackpot. Who'd have thought that an over-priced (see Apple's margins)  mobile phone and an over-sized (iPad) tablet could be so popular? There's no denying they have been a huge commercial success.

But is that the best yardstick to measure quality? (Mr Gruber?)

Apple's design philosophy is to give the user only as much interactivity as they need and no more. In some ways this is great. Users who only want to think about one thing at a time don't feel rushed or confused.

But for the rest of us it's just frustrating. It feels like eating McDonalds. It's a pre-digested mush designed to look, taste and smell good but with virtually no nutritional value.

There are other similarities: the obsession with branding, retail experience and packaging, the limited range of items on the menu, the Disney/celebrity tie-ins, the little toys (Siri), the sueing of businesses that are even remotely similar... There's a fine like between slick and slimey.

Now, for the record, I like McDonalds. Sometimes. I also like Apple. A bit.

What is the overall effect though? I sometimes wonder how many of America's potential future computer scientists are being raised on this stuff. Is a wave of intellectual obesity due in the next few years?

Don't get me wrong, from the moment I used the iPad I knew it was a content creator. As a Windows tablet user it was obvious they the iPad had a keyboard you could actually use. That makes it a useful tool, even if some of the content created could be confused with the by-product created by McDonalds users.

While fast food hasn't killed home cooking or the appreciation of good food, it has made it a niche activity. If I was 10 years old again I would want to know how does the iPad itself work? There is very little you can do to customize functionality, to get under the skin.

Installing apps and wallpapers hits the spot like a frozen TV dinner.You're locked out of the kitchen, unless you jailbreak (a term that's vastly more negative than the Android equivalent: rooting). Apple says,"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

Android is slightly better, but still has issues. It's like Burger King - you can have it your way (if the carrier allows). But even without rooting, the user can create their own personal UI, write batch scripts (Tasker), and are generally more free to tinker than iOS users. With root, Android devices become a Linux PC - a feast.

In conclusion (and to risk totally destroying the food analogy) I want to talk about Windows 8. IF they have a usable keyboard AND they someone hacks together a 50/50 screen split mode (Metro uses a weird 66/33 split) Windows 8 could be like an all you can eat buffet with the finest ingredients. Real meat and vegetables; wholesome, nutritious and satisfying. And with amazing desserts too. In short, it'll make the iPad look like a happy meal.

1 comment:

  1. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)